Earlier this season, I wrote a column on how Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker would need to carry the franchise past a disastrous loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last season, a difficult situation with former owner Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the team and more.
Now, the Suns’ star player isn’t even on the court (groin strain, out four weeks at least). It is not his fault, but he has not been available to carry his team out of a perilous stretch in which it has lost eight of nine games after it lost five of six in between a three-game winning streak.
This is not what Phoenix fans have expected the last three seasons. The Suns had the best regular-season stretch since the NBA bubble in 2019-20, and they reached the NBA Finals two years ago before they had their best regular-season in franchise history with 64 wins.
This year, Phoenix was expected to be good but perhaps not as great as years past. Starting point guard Chris Paul is 37 years old and the team’s bench got weaker after it lost backup center JaVale McGee. The Suns are also without usual starting power forward Jae Crowder, who is seeking a trade that has yet to be made.
Bright Side of the Sun polled earlier this week if the Suns should make dramatic changes to their team in the midst of their recent skid. No matter what they do, they will need to fix a situation that has spiraled out of control and perhaps closed a championship window with Paul, who they gave up several assets for – including a 2022 first-round pick – to try to build on a cultural turnaround with coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones for team success.
It’s not to say this is the Suns’ fault. Phoenix has had multiple players injured this season, including Paul with heel soreness, Booker with a groin injury, starting power forward Cam Johnson with a meniscus tear, backup guard Cameron Payne with a right foot strain and backup guard Landry Shamet with Achilles soreness. It has forced the Suns to rely on players who usually feed off others, like starting forward Mikal Bridges – who may need to produce at a higher clip outside of catch-and-shoot opportunities and cuts – and starting center Deandre Ayton, who has not been consistently made a focal point of the team’s offense even though multiple players are out.
The Suns have made themselves known in the last few seasons with team-oriented basketball, mantras from Williams – including, ‘Well done is better than well said,’ and one of my personal favorites, ‘Don’t get too happy on the farm’ – but have seemed to be one piece away from a championship.
They failed to acquire Kevin Durant this offseason even though they were the perceived favorites to land him and may have known about his request for several weeks. That could have been due to the Nets’ rigid trade requests, but general manager James Jones has stated his intent to build on team continuity, which could have played a role in perhaps his desire not to give up extensive assets for Durant.
Now, the Suns are in the pickle. We’ve seen this team shine in the last three seasons like it has not perhaps in franchise history. But they are in the midst of a situation in which their roster might be shutting down, and they have to do something to restart it.
What do you think, Suns fans? What is the answer to rebuilding the team with Booker out and a huge losing streak in play?